Patty Hearst as Symbionese Liberation Army comrade Tania, April 1974
Courtesy of National Archives & Records Administration
Premieres Sunday, November 26 at 9 PM ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
On February 4, 1974, 19-year-old Patricia “Patty” Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley, California apartment. Because she was the granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, Patty’s kidnapping left authorities confounded and the American public glued to its television screens watching the saga of an abducted American heiress unfold. The Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst tells the inside story, without interviews or narration, utilizing Hearst’s own voice recordings, footage of her first interview following her release and first-hand audio tapes of the kidnappers. In addition, rediscovered news footage allows viewers to experience all of the confusion, fear and absurdity that held a nation in thrall for 19 months.
Shortly after Patty’s abduction, a left-wing urban guerrilla group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, claimed responsibility. The SLA intended to leverage the Hearst family’s fortune and political influence and issued a series of demands to Patty’s father, Randolph Hearst. When his efforts to comply failed to satisfy them, the SLA released recorded messages of Patty to local news outlets, giving the public a direct line into the bizarre ordeal. In these communiqués, Patty speaks directly to her parents and law enforcement from inside the SLA’s hideout, first assuring them that she is unharmed, but soon growing agitated with her parents’ failures to meet SLA demands and with the FBI for antagonizing her captors.